“The gleaming brooks, the green pastures, warm people greeting you with wide smiles, snow clad mountains enveloping us at all times remind me of our good old days in Switzerland” my aunt exclaimed! Only 5 years later when I visited the Swiss Alps, I knew she was right. Sikkim indeed has streaks of Switzerland and yet it stands so virginly and understated!
Rewind 7 years ago when Lonely Planet was the only Wikipedia we had and GPS was inexistent – all we had to rely on was physical maps, movies, and recommendations from people who had visited the places themselves. Back then, all our trips were full of exploration! All we could do was imagine how a particular spot could look like based on the description we heard. All our bucket lists had was the seven wonders of the world and Switzerland (thanks DDLJ) but not enriching experiences that are just a google away these days. Absolutely no complaints though!
So you can imagine our curiosity when after going through all the spots mentioned in the Sikkim guide and carefully chaulking out our itinerary, we come across a location never heard before – The Gurudongmar Lake. Not more than 2-3 lines about this frozen lake and we read a disclaimer stating that traveling here isn’t advisable for people suffering from high blood pressure or heart problems.
We are a group of 11 – 3 suffering from Blood pressure, 2 diabetes and one who has already gone through an ECG.
Challenge? Hell yeah!
What struck us was that this place was not covered by any, literally any travel company online – Not Kesari, Veena nothing! We’re trying to ask our local guide about this lake but his reluctance is too evident! Honestly, we’re all the more pumped up by now!
So we have a plan now – It’s going to be a Blind Date with Gurudongmar Lake.
Apparently, you just cannot decide overnight you want to visit Gurudongmar. There’s a lot that goes in. A permit is just one of the many issues, the other one being vehicle. Self-drive is not even an option.
The preparations begin the previous day where you travel for about 10 hours to reach a tiny town called Lachen. Stock up on peppermints, summer sippers and plenty of games and road trip songs because this journey is going to be exhausting! Treacherous roads ahead – mind you!
After staying at some of the finest hotels during our trip so far, this one is a
welcome change. Cramped up rooms, basic food and a place where even electricity could be counted as an amenity. We are now asked to get some good sleep as the day ahead seems to be packed.
We all sleep on a bed of exhilaration that night!
3 am – Wake up call
We have a very basic breakfast and await our cab when someone notices the view on the backside of our hotel – A pitch dark landscape punctuated with a sprawling range of the Himalayas overlooking us. Their peaks are gleaming back at us against the contrast of the black skies! That sight is not for the faint hearted – it just can’t be put in words!
We knew we were going to come across some breathtaking spots during the day, but something like this at 3 am right outside our humble abode? Not even in our wildest dreams!
A 6-hour journey begins across winding roads that worsen each passing hour!
8 am – My Blind date has arrived – and boy, she’s one decked up lady
Glistening blue waters engulfed by rugged mountains, the Gurudongmar Lake is pristine. Situated at an altitude of 18,000 ft. we are less than 5 kms away from China. Pinch me, coz it feels unreal!
We are told one cannot spend more than 30 mins at this spot. Don’t believe me? Well, 18 kms before the lake arrives you will not see a single blade of grass? Reason – Oxygen is that scarce here!
No matter how many bucket lists you may have, the Gurudongmar Lake is something you are likely to skip because you will never find it in regular itineraries. If you travel to explore the world or travel to explore yourself, this place it is! You cannot talk or walk much because of the scanty oxygen so all you do is stand and surrender yourself to the mesmerizing beauty that stands ahead of you.
At that moment, you forget all the steep slopes and sharp turns you’ve taken on your journey. Is this what heaven looks like?
Sikkim is one place that has not come under the tourist’s radar and we wonder why! All the while during our week-long trip, we covered every inch of the state and North Sikkim indeed resembles Switzerland in ways more than one! Except for infrastructure, but am sure that can be worked upon. The beauty this state offers is beyond hypnotizing. Glaciers, brooks, waterfalls – all maketh Sikkim a place you got to have on your list. Not the bucket list, but #TheBlindList – the one full of unadulterated locales!
You would think on our way back we would treat ourselves to a fancy meal – And yes we did – We did indulge ourselves in piping hot Maggi & bowls brimming with tomato soup! When in the hills, not even the cheesiest pizza in the world can be compared to these modest meals. The entire day and the previous day’s journey had passed by at the flick of a finger but we were left with memories that refused to fade in a lifetime.
Not going to lie. We were apprehensive about this trip right from Day 1, but nothing stopped us. And we did it! It’s your turn now. Will you #SayYesToTheWorld ?
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